The Independent London Newspaper
23rd May 2019

FORUM: Government has no right to take our social housing


    Published: 27 July, 2015
    by Cllr PAT CALLAGHAN (pictured)

    AS I write to a family who need help to get a flat, I’m not just saddened by how often I hear these stories; I’m filled with fear about what the future holds for families like this if the government get their hands on our housing stock.   

    Camden Council’s cabinet meeting on allocations will be lively; and so it should be. 

    We have a proud history of council housing and we’ve shown our passion as a community to protect what it was set up to do. 

    The diversity of our communities is what makes them thrive. 

    And it’s my job to do whatever we can to defend this and make sure the system works fairly to give those who need a home the best chance of getting one. 

    But our current system isn’t fair and the housing list isn’t accurate – 6,000 people on the list don’t even live in Camden. 

    Most other London boroughs have already updated their list. 

    We are only able to allocate around 1,000 homes a year, but the list suggests there are currently 30,000 people waiting for homes. 

    We know that figure is misleading as 60 per cent of those never actually bid for available homes; some have been on there over 20 years and never bid.  

    Letters to the New Journal recently suggested people with jobs will no longer be eligible. 

    This is nonsense.

    ‘We need to protect our communities and fight for our homes’: above, the Chalcots estate

    Or if you are overcrowded by one bedroom you’ll be slung off the list – that’s wrong too. The new system will better tackle problems like overcrowding. 

    I’ve never thought it was acceptable for a mum to be expected to sleep in a living room and count that as a bedroom, so that’s one of the things we’ve changed. 

    This has been in development for four years to make sure we get it right. We received a record response to the consultation using over 2,000 people’s responses to shape the scheme. 

    People said they want a fairer system – because those who really need a home aren’t always able to get one – so we’ve put those groups first and brought common sense to a system that all too often failed the people it was set up to support.  

    This is an important step that will make a real difference to the lives of overcrowded families, children living in poverty, people with disabilities, and their carers. 

    I’m in no doubt that the need for social housing is greater than ever and who the beneficiaries of it should be. It’s not just about rising house prices and spiralling rents any more. It’s about the principles we live by in Camden, what makes us the borough we are and changes to the allocations system go right to the heart of these challenges, like giving priority to local people to help them stay in Camden. 

    The biggest threat to our diverse communities isn’t our allocations policy. It’s this government’s destructive housing policies. Their extension of “Right to Buy” could rob us of 40 per cent of the homes we place families in, and their latest attack on working families – known as “Pay to Stay” – would charge sky-high rents to tenants with a combined household income over £40,000. Anyone who lives in London knows this is far from a “high earner”, and seems counter-productive to encouraging people to work. 

    Taking our housing stock will not reduce the need for social housing; it continues to grow as the private rental market prices people out. This is a concerted effort by this government to threaten the fabric of our comm­unities, by attacking the very existence of social housing. And they have no right to buy our social housing in Camden.

    We need to protect our communities and fight for our homes.  

    Labour councillor Pat Callaghan represents Camden Town with Primrose Hill ward and is cabinet member for housing.